By Liam Resener, Interpretive Ranger
It’s officially springtime in the Bluegrass, and that means a lot more folks are going to be out at The Parklands enjoying the warmer weather. In Kentucky, spring weather also brings increased rainfall and flooding. In fact, Louisville receives about a third of its annual precipitation in the spring months. Today, if you paddle down Floyds Fork, hike near one of our wetlands, bike along the banks of the river, or participate in any other activities outside, you’ll probably notice high water levels and wet ground all around The Parklands. The water is certainly welcome by the vegetation that’s now becoming active again, but floods often have a significant impact on the broader landscape and can make spring a delicate season for some of our more fragile ecosystems.
Erosion on the riverbanks
Wet soil is more susceptible to erosion than dry soil, and limiting erosion is essential to preserving The Parklands’ ecosystems. Among our more vulnerable ecosystems are those in our riparian areas, or areas near the riverbanks. Our riparian ecosystems are extremely important for filtering out pollutants from Floyds Fork, regulating temperature and water flow in the river—affecting fish and other aquatic life—and providing habitat for many vulnerable species like great blue heron, beavers, and minks. So, when you venture out to enjoy areas along the river, it’s important to do so with care, staying away from the edge of the bank to avoid causing further erosion.
“riverbend” by oppla is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Further from the river, you may notice some flooding in areas where you’re not used to seeing water. Some of these areas can remain flooded for the majority of the spring and are known as vernal or seasonal pools. These distinct wetlands serve as breeding grounds for many amphibians. You can probably find them just by listening for the chorus of spring peepers, a species of frog with a distinctive (and loud!) call. These unique areas are fleeting, and will be completely dry by the end of spring, so find them while you can! Just be sure to wear footwear that you’re prepared to get muddy and explore carefully.
Swift water and flash floods
Spring showers also bring quick-moving water and flash floods. Flash floods occur when periods of intense rainfall cause water levels to rise dramatically over a short period of time, and can cause dangerous conditions for anybody enjoying the outdoors in or near waterways. Even when it has not been raining in your immediate area, heavy rainfall upstream can cause flash floods, so it’s important to be vigilant about the change in water conditions.
Swift water can pose a serious risk to anyone in or near a river. Accordingly, The Parklands sometimes has to close paddling access points, and discourages paddling or walking in particularly dangerous areas of Floyds Fork during flood conditions. It’s important to note that it can be difficult to visually identify how quickly water is moving, so be sure to read the recommendations posted on the signs and bulletin boards near our paddling accesses. You can also find the recommendations on The Parklands website, which has the most up-to-date information regarding stream access, including live measurements of waterflow.
Visit www.theparklands.org/paddling for more information on paddling at The Parklands.
Liam joined the education team as an interpretive ranger to design and lead field trips, science classes, and other outdoor programs at The Parklands. He has bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Geography and Music from the University of Louisville. A native of Southern Indiana, he spent much of his time growing up hiking, backpacking, and camping in local forests. He previously held jobs leading outdoor programs with Louisville Metro Parks, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and teaching at the University of Louisville
Hobbies: Hiking, biking, camping, music, traveling, sports